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Marine to accept lesser charge in killings

  |   Jan. 23, 2012 at 2:48 PM
CAMP PENDLETON, Calif., Jan. 23 (UPI) -- A U.S. Marine accused of killing 24 Iraqis in 2005 has agreed in a deal to plead guilty to a lesser charge, prosecutors and defense lawyers said Monday.

Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, 31, is set to plead guilty to a single count of negligent dereliction of duty while other charges are dropped, the Los Angeles Times reported. The charge carries with it a three-month sentence in the brig, but that would be up to a military judge.

There was no word on what kind of discharge Wuterich would get, the report said.

With the court-martial set to resume Monday morning at Camp Pendleton, Calif., a military judge sent the jurors home without explanation.

Wuterich was accused of manslaughter, assault and dereliction of duty. Prosecutors alleged he led his squad on a bloody rampage on Nov. 19, 2005, after a roadside bomb killed one Marine and injured two in the town of Haditha, the Times said.

Twenty-four Iraqis were killed, including three women and seven children as Marines tried to find the gunmen who had been firing on them from houses near the bomb blast.

The prosecution's case was undercut by its own witnesses, the newspaper reported.

The Times said the Wuterich case is the last to be settled among eight Marines accused in the killings. Four enlisted men were accused in the killings and four officers were accused of not investigating thoroughly.

Six cases were dropped and one officer was acquitted at a court-martial.

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